With Mass Effect 2 on the way, there has been a lot of rumour and speculation over what to expect. So here, we break down the confirmed list of exactly what's coming in the sequel... avoid if you don't want to ruin into spoilers!
Is Shepard Dead?
Yes and no. The initial trailer for Mass Effect 2 showed that Commander Shepard has been killed in action but he is later brought back to life by Cerberus.
Mass Effect 2 is set shortly after the conclusion of Mass Effect. Shepard is patrolling for geth when the Normandy is attacked, forcing the crew to evacuate. Shepard is the last to get in his escape pod and dies drifting in space when his oxygen runs out.
The Shadow Broker - first introduced in the original Mass Effect as a powerful and anonymous information trader - retrieves Shepard's body on behalf of The Collectors. Together with Cerberus, who employed previous squad-mate Liara T'Soni to recover the body, Shepard's body is revived thanks to Project Lazarus (this will no doubt serve as the point in the game where you can change your character's personality and/or appearance).
Two years after, Shepard is onboard a Cerberus space station when it comes under attack. Shepard helps Miranda Lawson (new squad-mate) and Jacob Taylor escape, while Shepard is taken in to meet the Illusive Man. He then asks Shepard to investigate Freedom's Progress in the Terminus System, to find out why human colonies are being abducted - despite appearing to be a malicious organisation in Mass Effect, Cerberus' priority on human survival paints them in a different light in the sequel. Shepard encounters Tali there and also finds The Collectors are behind the abductions - and thus, Mass Effect 2 begins...
This has received lots of tweaks since Mass Effect, mostly in the form of regenerating health (no more medi-gel) and thermal clips (serving as universal ammo for all weapons). Weapons no longer overheat and there will be no grenades this time round, probably a good thing as they didn't really work too well in the original. Sub-machine guns, heavy pistol are machine pistol are a few of the new weapons.
You no longer need to spend level up points on your weapon class either, as you will be fully effective in that weapon if your class supports it. You can now target individual parts of the body and you have to manual enter cover rather than automatically, a la the original Mass Effect.
Although it's not strictly combat, you can now also physically interrupt conversations - to push people to make a point or drawing a gun, for example.
On the biotic side, new abilities include Pull, Shockwave, Charge and Slam. The new tech abilities include Combat Drone, Cryo Blast, Incinerate and Tech Armor.
The issue of side-missions has been fixed, as the uncharted worlds will now provide more to explore. In addition to that, a brand new vehicle will replace the Mako, so no more bouncing around rocky terrain trying to line up a shot against a distant turret. We hope.
A fuel system will limit travel between the worlds, possibility promoting fewer planets than are in-depth over Mass Effect's lots-of-planets-with-just-text approach.